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BELLA-DEMONIA.

[By Selina Dolaro.]

BOOK IY. CHAPTER V. REAPINU THE WHIRLWIND. Mr Cincinuatus Q. Briggs’s complacent appreciation of his own diplomacy was interrupted by the sudden irruption of Kitty Saville, followed by Dick, “How d’ye do, Mr Briggs?” was her greeting. “ Dick wanted me not to come. The idea!—as if I would miss seeinc my old friend Aubyn Goddard set right. What a long time it is since we met, and how queer that we should both be mixed up in this dreadful business! I little thought, when I sat next to you at dinner, and was so impertinent to you, that night at Lord Arlingford’s, that the evening would end so tragically. I suppose you heard about Lady Arlingford’s long illness ? ” “ Yes, but not the whole of the trouble,” replied Briggs, surprised at finding himself getting in a word edgeways. “Well, you know, when she recovered she did nothing but blame herself for the whole affair. I believe that if Lord Arlingford had not been so careless of all decency, she would have begged his pardon. Her people insisted on a divorce, though, and she was too weak to oppose it, and when she got well she confided to mo that if ever she found an opportunity she meant to ask him to marry her over again.” “ For why ? ” “For the sake of her child. Oh, Mjliat silly women these good women are ! I’m so glad I’m a bad one ! I was so impatient with her that we nearly quarrelled ; and now that Dick has determined that Goddard shall be set right, she has begged to be allowed to come and give Arlingford one more chance. Oh, that woman is too much of an angel ” “ My dear Kitty,” mildly expostulated Dick, “will you confine your attention to the matter in hand, and not expand on your personal feelings ? ” “My dear Dick,” was the reply, “will you let me say one word without interruption? Mr Briggs is an old friend of mine ; we met but once, it is true, but it’s all the same ; we should have been old friends if we had met more frequently; shouldn’t we, Mr Briggs?” “My dear madam,’’answered the American, “ you overwhelm me. To have met you but once is both a privilege and a privation. It is to have lived and to have ceased living at the same moment. It is ”

“ Mr Briggs ! if you finish that sentence I shall have a fit! I’m not accustomed to it. Dick when he intends to be most polite generally'says ‘lsay, old gal, you’re not looking half bad to-night,’ or when he means to be most affectionate, ‘Here, Tramp ! come and be smacked.’” “ Really, my dear,” broke in Dick at this point, “ these domestic details—really— And, at a loss for words to balance his wife's eloquence, he raised her band deferentially to his lips. “ Why, Dick,” exclaimed she, looking at him in alarm, “you’re not well. All this .excitement has been too much for you. Sit down, and don’t talk. Oh, Mr Briggs, I bad a most mysterious little note from Lady Arlingford, just as I was starting to come here. Let me see: what did I do with it ? Ah, here it is.” She took a letter from her pocket and read as follows:

“ I have heard terrible news this afternoon, and am nearly mad ivilh hope and fear. I will explain all to yon, I must speak to the lady whom yon, call Bella-Demonia alone ; so when toe meet to-night make some excuse to leave vs together for a few minutes. Head this to Mr Briggs, and ask him to manage with , you to do as I wish.— What does it mean ? ”

She laid the letter down on the writingtable. As she did so, she uttered a little ■exclamation, and, turning to Briggs, quoth every gravely : “ Oh ! 1 am so much obliged.” *‘l am charmed, of course; but why?” returned Briggs, in amazement. “ Because at last you’ve satisfied mo that you art an American. Now, I wonder if you trot this purposely for me, or if it’s a toy ? ” Her glance had fallen on the little revolver, and, taking it up, she brandished it with glee. “Be careful, for gracious’ sake!” exclaimed Briggs, in alarm. “It’s loaded; and, though it’s very small, it would kill at this range.” “ Oh, goodness! ” cried Kitty, as she dropped the weapon among the papers in comic consternation, “ But come, what do you make of Lady Arlingford’s note ? ” “ I can make nothing of it. At all events her request is simple enough. They will both be here in a few moments, and if you will come into the library I should like to show you some etchings I have bought—a Seymour-Haden, 9 couple of Wilfred Ball’s, and a Haig or two. lam told they’re very .fine.”

“I should like to see them very much,” returned Kitty,” “though I don’t under«taad them a bit.”

MV Cincinnatua Q. Briggs was a most disappointing American, Instead of buying diamonds or pictures to sell, he spent his spare cash on rare bric-a-brac, etchings, and engravings to keep, iou might be with faim for twenty-four hours and never hear what anything he possessed bad coat him. He had not the vaguest conception as to the price of his wines, and, though as ardent a collector of early-printed books and first editions as the most educated Westerner settled in Now York, he positively knew «rhat books he had, and had “ read at ” all <al them. It is probable that had he been a unarried man the house he lived in would mot have been made over to his wife to ,cheat his creditors in the event of financial shipwreck. Kitty was still when Lady Arlingford was announced. Briggs advanced to conduct her to a chair, “I hope you are not fatigued, Lady Arlingford,” said he. "Have you seen £aptain Goddard yet ? ” “ Not yet,” replied she, “ I expected to find him here, “ Ah, Kitty, how happy you look ? I’m so glad, dear 1 You got my letter? ” “ Yea, dear, but I don’t understand it. Have you seen the Baroness Altdorff ? ” «• Yes—this afternoon, by accident; and H learnt from her the truth.”

41 The truth?" ~ „ 41 Yes. She told me who she was and is. 4 ‘Who is she? what is she?” exclaimed Dick and Kitty both together, « You do not know ? ” “No. Who is she?” “ The Prinem Oalitzin.” Jhe words were uttered by a servant who •t tbis moment threw open the folding doors and admitted Bella-Demonia to the presence) of three people whose faces took on an; expression of unspeakable amazement. •i oh/ Mick,” whispered Kitty, “ who is she going to turn out next ? Are you sure—are you sum she is not Mrs Richard Saville, among other things ? ” “ I swear she isn’t,” replied the no less astonished Dick, in the same tone. “ She’ll bo somebody else in a minute. 1 know she will” “ Probably.” Meanwhile, Mr Briggs, leading the newcomer forward, said to Lady Arlingford: “ Lady Arlingford, allow me to present to

said her ladyship. . . “ Yes,” returned Bella-Demonia, and, Mr and Mrs Saville I already know. How sreyoul” “ I was just going, as we have a few minutes yet, to show Mrs Saville some pet etchings of mine,” said Mr Briggs. “ Would you care to aae them, princess ? The Princess Galitzin .exchanged a glance with Lady Arlingford, and [then answered : ■“Thank vou ; I would rather .see them later “t you will allow me, hut .do not Jet me deprive Mr and Mrs Saville of ifro (pleasure. Ido not feel quite up to enjoying .etchings just now.” “Nor I,” said Lady ArlmgfonL •“ Well, (then,” pursued Mr Briggs, if won will pardon us for a while 41 Ball means.” As Kitty left the room she whispered to ILady Arlingford; 4 ‘Are you sure you are strong enougn; Shall I stay ?” , , “No, no; leave us,” was the reply, ww I 4he next moment the two women were once •nore.alone.

Lady Arlington! rose. “ Will you give me your hand ? ” she said, “ After hearing your story, I don’t feel fit to touch you. I must have provoked you beyond endurance by my ignorance. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?” “If I could wipe out your injuries as easily as I can forgive you—if indeed there is anything to forgive—l do no a thousand times over. Can you believe that in knowing your trouble I have forgotten my own ? How I wish I could help you ! how I should like to prove the depth and reality of my sympathy ! ” “ You can prove it, and, if you will, you can give mo all the peace I can hope to gain out of this sad life. If I should ask something of you that will tax your goodness to its depths, would you grant me my prayer? God knows I feel I have no right to expect so much from you ; but ” “There is no effort I would spare to help you. What can Ido ? ’ “ I implore you to give Jack—Lord Arlington!—one chance to clear himself of some of the charges of which you think him guilty. That horrible story you told me—there must be some explanation. Let him speak in his own behalf. I know he will do his utmost to repair the injury he did Aubyn, and I am sure Aubyn will bury the past, if only for my sake. Will you not do the same ? Influential, protected as you are in your own countiy, surely you have ouly to ask for the annulment of your marriage with my—my husband, to obtain it. Is it not so?”

“ Yes; but why do you ask ? ” “ Because I would help him to atone for his past; because if you will give him his freedom I will still take him back. Oh, don’t shrink from me ! Hear what I have to say before you condemn me. Remember, I have a child. It is my duty to do all in my power to bring her father back to her.” “ And you would live with that man, despising him as you must, because you feel it to be your duty ? ” “ Even so ! It is the least I can do to atone to my little girl for the wrong that has been done her. I should he unable to meet her eyes, as she asks for her father, if I had not done all in my power to redeem him. Will you do what I ask ?” The Princess Galitzin rose, and, walking to the window, appeared to reflect deeply. Then she came back and said :

“ For your sake, I promise that so far as my own injuries are concerned I will forgive him. But his ruin of Aubyn Goddard I cannot—will not forgive. Not upon me, but on his confession tc-night, will depend his liberty. His fate is in his own hands.” “Ah ! how can I thank you ? I am confident now.”

At this] moment Mr Briggs entered the room.

“ Captain Goddard has just arrived,” said ho. “ Shall I bring him in here ? “One moment,” said Lady Arlingford. “I—l can bear no more to-night. May I ask you, Mr Briggs, to let me rest awhile in another room, and then I will go home,” “ Certainly; it shall bo as you wish,” replied Mr Briggs. *‘ Come in here. I will see that your carriage is ready at any moment.”

Her ladyship turned to the princess and extended her hand as she said :

“May I see you once more before I leave England ? I don’t know if lam doing what is right, but I hope so.” Belk-Demonia bent her head, and Lady Arlingford left the room with Mr Briggs. Left alone, the woman looked after the departing form, and said, half aloud ; “Who shall say that you are wrong? Not I, indeed—l who have forgotten my revenge in my new-born dream.” She pressed her hands to her head, and turned, just as Aubyn Goddard entered the room.

They faced each other for a few minutes without speaking, and then Goddard, advancing, took both of her hands in his. “ So I atn to thunk you for honor as well as for life,” said ho, gravely. “That sounds almost like reproach,” replied she, “ Have I not done everything I could to atone for my share in the disaster Iso unwittingly brought on you ? Besides, it was your delirium and not the prince, that detained yt a at Deve-kiui. As far as he was concerned, you were free to go as you bad come.” “Heis hj wonderful man. Having caught mo I wonder be did not kill me ; I had given him trouble enough. Besides, he would have been killing two birds with one stone—or rather two men with one bullet. That evening when I lay unconscious at your feet—yours and his—the scene must have been terrible; it is never out of my mind,”

“It is one of the few moments of my life that I am ashamed of. When the prince recognised you, and I knew my trick to save you had been useless, I gave up all hope, and in the desperation of the moment I offered to buy your life from him. ‘ Only let him escape,’ said I, ‘ and I promise never to see him again, and I—my life—shall be given to you ! ’ ” “ My God ! And what did he say ? ” “ He said, simply, ‘I have loved you as long as I have known you, and you evidently do not understand that emotion as I do. I hope to show you that I can be at the same time a disappointed lover and—a gentleman.’ That was all that was said till you were on the high road to recovery and we laid our plans for the trapping of Arling. ford. I am not ashamed to say that I fell on my knees and asked his pardon. It was he who planned and devised so that your capture and whereabouts should be kept a secret from SkobelefF.”

“ How generous ! ” “It was well for you that your wound proved so dangerous, and that before you could be moved peace was proclaimed at San Stefano.”

Aubyn Goddard raised her hand to his lips and said, in a voice that betrayed the depth of his emotion ;

“ And you have borne all this for me ? I wonder why ? ” “ Why ? ” answered BellaJDemonia, with a quick smile and shake of her head. “ Because you are personally very distasteful to me; because, in short, I do not like you; because we are antipathetic to each other; because you have been so nobly treated that you deserve no sympathy. Are these reasons enough, Aubyn ? ” And the man, who was just a man, and no longer Aubyn Goddard the Hero, clasped to his breast the woman, who was just a woman, and no longer Bella-Demonia the Mystery, as she lay in his arms and gave up her soul to the ecstasy of hie kiss. They were very nearly caught by Mr Briggs, who entered the room at the moment, or rather just after it. “ Princess,” said he, “ Lord Arlingford is here. Shall he come in ? ” “ Wait one moment,” returned she. “My plan is much upset by Lady Arlingford’s strange determination, but I have promised faer my Md. If he signs the papers I am willing to avoid seeing him, and it will be best that he should not know that I have found him. Let mo retire for a while, where I can h(*r wha|t he has to say. This conservatory will do.” “ It shall be as you wish,” answered Mr Briggs, showing her to a little conservatory built out over the porch of the house, com.municating by a French window with the apartment. As she turned towards it she gave her hand to Goddard, who bent ond kissed it. .... “Ob ! ” observed Mr Briggs to himself. u Ah ! ” Thao he wont to the door and admitted Dick Saville, accompanied by Arlingford and Major Car Wet. The gallant major was evidently very nervous : he a little anart from his principal s-qd twisted his moustache spasmodically, a fit subject for an artist who might desire to make p V stydy of a mao ratting.* Mr Briggs motioned |the fqur men ,to bp seated, and took his place aA the writing table. Then slightly clearing bis throat, he observed :

“ As we all know for what purpose we are here, it will, I think, only be necessary for me to read this statutory declaration, which jbau been drawn up in duplicate for the signature of his lordship.” Arlington signified his intention, and Mr Briggs continued.: “ The declaration rpads as follows : 1, John Yy vian Fane, Yiscopnt Arlingford, do hereby solemnly declare that tip pharges made by me against Captain the Honorable Aubyn Goddard were false; that I made the said charges knowing them to be false, and with a specific purpose which was axscomplished in the failure of his mission.' Now, Arlingford, if you will affix your

signature in the presence of witnesses, we can terminate this very painful meeting.

“ Arlingford sprang to his feet. “ Sign that! ”he cried. “ I refuse to sign it ! lam willing to say that to the best of my belief I made a mistake ; but sign such a monstrous production as that ? Certainly not!”

“ You know the alternative, Lord Arlington!,” said Dick Saville. “ I have told you what I will do,” retorted Arlingford, turning upon him, “and there is no power on earth that can .force me to do more.”

“ Perhaps / can persuade Lord Arlingford to sign,” said a quiet rich voice behind them, as Bella-Demonia stepped into the room. Hearing the words, Arlingford started violently and turned to meet the woman’s stare.

“ Carita Galit/.in !” he exclaimed. “My God !”

“Hardly that,” replied the princess, in mock deprecation, “ but, unfortunately, your wife.” “His wife !” The exclamation broke forth simultaneously from the other four. Goddard started as if he had been shot, and went quickly to the woman’s side. “ What do you mean ?” he said, in a husky undertone. “ Wait,” she replied. Meanwhile, Arlingford, with a violent effort, had recovered his self-control.

“ You will have,” said he, sneeringly, “some difficulty in proving that the very hurried form that we went through was a legal marriage, even in Russia, and you will doubtless be too sensible to risk proving yourself to have been my mistress.” Goddard, with a half-cough of rage, sprang at him, but was restrained by Saville and by the princess who stepped between them. “ Unfortunately,” said she, in a tone of withering scorn, “to have been your wife is, if possible, the greater disgrace. You overestimate the honor of a marriage with yourself, and you underestimate the fact that you are in no position to oppose my slightest whim.” “ Indeed ? Because ?”

“ Because on me depends not only your ability to obtain the means of subsistence, but your liberty, your very life itself, belong to me, I have but to hold up my finger and your doom is sealed. You will sign that document at once.” “ Charming,” returned Arlingford; “ but we are in England now, and I am prepared to defend any action you may choose to bring. I refuse to sign. Do your worst! I defy you !” he concluded, violently, “Mr Briggs,” said the princess, “I saw Prince SchoulofTs carriage below. Will you be so good as to call him ? Thanks.” And Mr Cincinnatus Q. Briggs left the room,

“ In all the years,” resumed the princess, coming close to Arlingford, “ during which I sought for the murderer of my brother, I thought that nothing but his death could appease me, Now, however, fortunately for you, I have found t man whose honor is as pure as God’s blessed mercy—a man by comparison with whom you are too unclean a thing even to kill.” She turned on her heel and returned to Goddard’s side as Mr Briggs re-entered the room, accompanied by Prince Schouloff. “ Prince,” said Carita Galitzin to the Chief of Police, " will you kindly tell Lord Arlingford that if necessary we shall not be wanting in proofs to substantiate our charges of bigamy, nor shall we shrink from the publicity consequent on taking steps to frustrate his present plans ?” “ The prince will doubtless remember,” said Arlingford, with a cool assurance that was sublime, “ that the onus of disproof lies with the accused, and that I am in my own country, and therefore have the best chance of assuming the character of accuser. You, us foreigners, will have to go through certain formalities before being able to institute legal proceedings. I shall therefore proceed at once to prove that yours is simply an attempt at blackmail,” “I am compelled to admit that Lord Arlingford’s view of the legal position is entirely correct,” replied Prince Schouloff, quietly. Had a thunder bolt fallen among them, the consternation of his auditors could not have been more lively. “ You agree with him 1” exclaimed the princess. “I am so sure of his accuracy,” returned the prince, calmly, “ that I have taken the very position he so clearly points out to be the best. The negotiations pending between our respective governments have enabled me to procure a warrant for the immediate arrest of John Vyvian Fane, Viscount Arlingford, and it will be in not in London—that his lordship will have to answer the charge. ” “ What charge ?” “ Murder !”

“Murder !” echoed Arlingford, his air of cynic assurance suddenly changing to one of alarmed concern. “You can scarcely charge a man with that of which he is ignorant. You can charge him with whatever you please, but I learn for the fi r st time that I have killed anyone. Preposterous! May I know whom I murdered ?” “ You will find all duly stated in this warrant,” answered the prince, handing him a paper. “ Your long residence in Russia, and, above all, your connection with the police, render you sufficiently conversant with our code to convince you that we are acting within our right, and,” added he, significantly, “ that we seldom act in vain.” “ Your methods are at least expensive," ejaculated Arlingford, “ You are well able to judge of that point. My officers are below; you will, I presume, accompany them without further trouble. Mr Briggs, will you allow me to write some instructions ? Thank you.” And the prince seated himself at the writing table, whilst Arlingford stared dazedly at the warrant that he held in his hands. A servant appeared and handed a slip of paper to Mr Briggs, who whispered to the princess. The latter left the room, as Dick Saville approached Prince Schouloff and remarked — “ Prince, this is a desperate accusation—and so unexpected.” “Desperate diseases,” returned the prince, “ require desperate remedies, I feared that he might be unmanageable, so I took this precaution.” “But shall you be able to prove him guilty ?” “ That is quite unimportant,” was the answer. “Lord Arlingford will doubtless be glad to sign any document before his trial, rather than return to Russia. You understand ?”

“ May I ask,” said Mr Briggs, who had joined them, “ when and where this murder was committed ?”

“God knows ; I don’t,” returned the prince, laconically, as he turned once more to bis writing. Mr Briggs’s free and enlightened American mind was confused.

“ But surely ” he began, “My dear fellow,” said Dick Saville, taking him aside, “ what the deuce is the use of being a Russian prince if you can’t prove a man guilty of anything you like on an emergency ?” Meanwhile, Aubyn Goddard had approached the diplomat, “I am much indebted to you ” he began, “ Not at all," interrupted Schouloff. “ I was unfortunate enough to be a party—for reasons of State—to your trouble ; it is but right that I should be a party to your vindication, I repeat, for reasons of State, I was compelled to act as I did, knowing that I could vindicate you at the right moment. That act was as repugnant to me in the manner of its performance as to give you my assistance to-day is a pleasure,” Lord Arlingford hod finished the perusal of the warrant, and had scribbled a few Sprds in his note-book, which he gave to ajor ,C‘ftr,teret for delivery to his wife. Now he .moved towards the door. Therehe turned and facpd tiie sve men. The Princess iGalityin Mrs Bradley Pash ton entered the room behind and unpbseryetf by him. “ You calculated With perfect ceptaipty,” said his lordshfp, with » brave show ,pf defiance, “and I am not fool enough to resist you and give you the ohanco of killing me ‘ in self-defence,’ Fortunately, my wife is in a position to institute proceedings, which will be done at once. Egad ! you’re all very clever, but I observe that Captain Goddard’s little card-trick remains still unThe disappearance of that king of trumps wnt queer, wasn’t it? Let me see; I think tbs suit yas .oluba.,” “ You need not ta* yopr memory,” said a voice - “ BeJla-Pcmoma’e w behind him/

“ The card is here !” She laid it on the table, and all beat forward to look at it. “ You see,” pursued the princess, “ that this card is cue bearing on its back the monogram of a gambling club to which Lord Arlingford belonged, which was immediately afterwards broken up. The other—the one held by Captain Goddard—a two of clubs, will be forthcoming if required. This card was given to Mrs Dashton to destroy, that night, by Lord Arlingford. Fortunately, she did not do so. The reason of Captain Goddard’s refusal to show that two of clubs has been explained ; so that the signing of this declaration is no longer necessary.” “ You will state fully,” said Dick Saville to Mrs Dashton, who was leaning against the writing table, “how and when this card came into your possession ?” “In any terms you choose_to dictate,” she said.

Arlingford had been staggered for the moment, but came up to time, game to the last.

“ I congratulate you all,” said he, with an evil sneer, “ on the value of Mrs Dashton’s word !”

“ You will find that it is to be depended on,” said Mrs Dashton, quietly. “I told you this afternoon that ” “ That I was to do a great many things,” broke in Arlingford, in his former tone. “ Among others, that 1 was to marry you.” “No; I told you that you should marry no other.”

“And / told you that a man does not marry his ” “Stop!” cried the woman, her eyes blazing with fury, tier glance fell on the revolver lying under her hand ; quick as thought she raised it and fired. Lord Arlingford fell heavily to the ground, mortally wounded. Amid the general consternation, the Princess Galitzin went to Mrs Dashton’s side. She was fainting. “Whew! what shall we do now?” said Dick Saville to Prince Schouloff.

“Mrs Dashton is ono of my witnesses,” returned he. “ I will see that she leaves the country at once. She will never return.”

A door was thrown open, and Lady Arlingford rushed into the room. Seeing tier husband lying on the floor, she flung herself by his side. “My God!” she cried, “how did this happen ?” Arlingford, with a supreme effort, raised himself, and, making a sign imposing silence on the others, addressed his wife—- “ I—l—the game was up,” ho said. “I — I—shot myself. Poor little woman; you are well rid of me.” He sank into her arms. John Vyvian Fane, Viscount Arlingford, was dead. [the end.J

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890928.2.37.9

Bibliographic details

BELLA-DEMONIA., Issue 8024, 28 September 1889, Supplement

Word Count
4,573

BELLA-DEMONIA. Issue 8024, 28 September 1889, Supplement

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